A real Apostille seal and ribbon in South Africa, embossed.

How does an “Apostille” work?

Before obtaining an Apostille Certificate for South African public documents, you’ll need to verify that the country that will be receiving the document (the Country of Destination) is a signatory/member/contracting state to the Apostille Convention (Hague Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Consular Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents). A public document issued in South Africa often has to be apostillised or legalised (officially “authenticated” when it is going to be used in a foreign country. In fact, it is the signature and/or stamp on public documents that requires the Apostille.

South Africa is a member country (or state) to the Hague Convention “Abolishing the Requirement of Consular Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents of 1961” and, as such, an Apostille Certificate is often required before legal SA documents may be used abroad. Under this Convention, member countries (contracting states) have agreed to abolish the legalisation process and to replace it with a single formality: The issuance of an authentication certificate (i.e. the Apostille) by an authority designated by SA (as the State of Origin) called the “Competent Authority”. The Convention thus facilitates the exchange and verification of public documents; an Apostille will be required for all contracting states of the Hague Convention.

The person in the Country of Destination (where the document will be used) who receives the document cannot judge the authenticity of the document merely on face value as he/she may not be familiar with the identity or official capacity of the person signing the document or the identity of the authority whose seal and/or stamp it bears. As a result, states/countries require that the origin of a foreign public document must be certified by an official who is familiar with the document. It is against that background that the procedure known as “legalisation” was developed. Authentication therefore generally refers to the process of verifying or ‘authenticating’ the origin of a public document. It is worth noting that ‘authentication’ is defined in Rule 63(1) of the Uniform Rules of Court as the verification of any signature on a document.

PLEASE NOTE: It is up to each and every person to find out whether they require an Apostille or Certificate of Authentication attached to their document. We cannot officially advise you on this point, only give you unofficial advice from what we’ve seen from other clients in the past. Usually, the authority you are submitting to can advise you.


Documents that often have to be apostillised include:

Home Affairs documents and Police Clearances:
• Police Clearance Certificates (we can obtain this for you, fast, see pricing)
• Birth Certificate (we can obtain this for you, see pricing)
• Marriage Certificate (we can obtain this for you, see pricing)
Death Certificate (we can obtain this for you, see pricing)
• Divorce Decrees (we can obtain this for you, see pricing)
• Letter of No Impediment to be married abroad (we can obtain this for you, see pricing)

Academic documents:
• SA Degree and Diploma certificates (SA degrees must first go to the SAQA)
• TEFL certificates (first have to be notarised, then apostillised at the High Court)
• Foreign degrees (first have to be notarised, then apostillised at the High Court)
• Other academic Apostilles

Other documents:
• Background Check
• Single Status Affidavit
• Power of Attorney
• Copy of Passport
• Copy of Driver’s License
• Transcripts
• Authorisation Letter
• Travel Consent Letter
• Articles of Incorporation
• Certificate of Good Standing
• Certification of Free Sale
• Certification of Origin
• Corporate Power of Attorney
• Commercial Invoice

All the “other” documents above first have to be notarised, then apostillised at the High Court.

What does an Apostille from South Africa look like?


An Apostille is an extra page (this is important to note if you need translations done as they charge per page) that is bound/attached to your original document (e.g. birth certificate) stating that the person issuing and/or signing the document is legitimate, as well as the stamp thereupon. The Apostille page is attached by a ribbon, verifying the signature on the document and/or the stamp affixed thereto.

See two examples of South African apostilles below: (click to open in a new tab)

Apostille South Africa example

Do I have to notarise and apostillise my documents?


In some cases, official South African documents will have to be notarised before being apostillised (verified or authenticated). If the country where you intend to use the document is also a member of the Hague Convention, the document can be certified by an Apostille certificate.

For the foreign country to accept the South African document as valid, proof must be made that the signatures and the document are legitimate, which is why there is an authentication process. Depending on the country where the document will be used, the signature of the notary public (a specialist attorney) will thus need to be verified or authenticated for the Country of Destination to accept the South African document as valid.

Depending on whether or not the country where the document will be used is a member of the Hague Convention will determine whether an Apostille or a Certificate of Authentication is required.

What if the country is not a contracting state of the Apostille Convention?


Because not all signatures and documents used in South Africa are known to all other foreign countries, the “Apostille” process is used as an authenticity indicator. Consular notarial services are rendered to South African citizens that require South African official (public) documents to be legalised for use overseas. When documents receive an Apostille certification, they have legal validity to be used outside of the Republic of South Africa.

Apostille convention Hague countries flags

The Apostille Convention covers all of these countries.

Whenever documents are authenticated (“apostillised”), it means that the origin of such documents is verified and can be presented to the authorities of the Country of Destination (the country where the document is submitted or used). They are affixed, sealed, and signed either with an Apostille Certificate (if the country it is intended to be used in is a member of the Hague Convention) or with a Certificate of Authentication (if the country where the document will be used is not a member of the Hague Convention). Read more about this embassy authentication (sometimes referred to as attestation). Chinese embassy attestation is covered here.

You could have your official South African documents legalised abroad by a South African diplomatic or consular representative only if the documents were legalised by the relevant foreign competent authority in their country of accreditation, for use within South Africa. South African diplomatic or consular representatives abroad are not permitted to issue an Apostille, only Certificates of Authentication.


What does an Apostille service cost?


See the table below to get an idea of the pricing for an easy apostille service for the various possible documents. Please verify these prices with our main pricing page in case there have been recent changes.

DIRCO has dramatically slowed down their service levels in the past years (since 2019/2020 when COVID started) and currently (September 2022) take 4-8 weeks to process an apostille that used to take 1-2 days. One cannot enter DIRCO as a member of the public and must use a courier service or agency such as Apostil.co.za. One cannot apply for an appointment to submit documents, only receive an appointment to collect them.

(See our Pricing page.)

Let us assist you, we are fast!

Apostille certification, therefore, refers to the process followed by which the signature and seal on an official (public) document is verified. We can handle all such Authentications, Legalisations and easy Apostilles, and in record timing. See our pricing.